I can’t believe this has never been an issue before:
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) — Space shuttle Discovery was moved to the launch pad Thursday to await a launch that could be as early as December 6 — an effort to avoid potential New Year’s Eve computer glitches.
The worry is that shuttle computers aren’t designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight. NASA has never had a shuttle in space December 31 or January 1.
“We’ve just never had the computers up and going when we’ve transitioned from one year to another,” said Discovery astronaut Joan Higginbotham. “We’re not really sure how they’re going to operate.”
Starting December 7, launch opportunities would be available as late as December 17 or 18. With a 12-day mission, that would mean the shuttle is back on Earth before New Year’s Eve.
However, NASA was quick to say that even if the shuttle crew finds itself still in space on January 1, procedures could be devised to make a transition if necessary.